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Speech to the NCP launch event in Hong Kong



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Senator Mason’s remarks—NCP launch event in Hong Kong Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

Hong Kong

22 May 2014

Introduction and welcoming remarks

It is a pleasure to be here this evening in one of the world’s most vibrant, colourful and cultural cities to officially launch the operation of this year’s pilot phase of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan in Hong Kong.

Before I tell you a little bit more about the background and purpose of the New Colombo Plan and the progress we are making in implementing the pilot phase of the program in Hong Kong, I would like to firstly extend a warm welcome to the stars of the show tonight: our student guests from the University of Wollongong in Australia.

These students, who are currently undertaking study at the Hong Kong Institute of Education as part of the New Colombo Plan pilot phase, are pioneers in a program that the Australian Government believes will be a catalyst for ongoing change in the way Australians engage in our region.

Background and purpose of the New Colombo Plan

Ladies and gentlemen, the New Colombo Plan is a signature policy initiative of the Australian Government, providing $100 million in new funding over 5 years to enable Australian undergraduate students to undertake a range of unique study and internship opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region.

The New Colombo Plan is intended to enhance Australia’s people-to-people and institutional linkages in the Indo-Pacific, serving as a platform for closer relations between Australia and our neighbours—economically, politically and culturally.

The New Colombo Plan is also intended to support Australian students to gain the skills, knowledge and cultural understanding they need to forge successful careers in light of the continuing shift in global economic power from the West towards the Indo-Pacific.

Ladies and gentlemen, the world is a very different place to what it was 25 years ago when I went to study overseas. Then, relatively few students chose to study overseas and when they did, they invariably went to the US, the UK and occasionally Canada.

But now, in a changing regional and global landscape, young Australians are far more aware than they were 25 years ago that their future is a shared one with their Indo-Pacific neighbours.

The New Colombo Plan is an important part of this cultural shift, opening the door to new opportunities for Australian students that will enable them to become the leaders of the future and to drive ongoing change and development in our region.

Over time, it is hoped that the opportunities available under the New Colombo Plan will encourage even more young Australians to view study and work experiences in our region as an essential part of their education and career preparation—to view these experiences as, in the words of Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, a ‘rite of passage’.

Operation of the New Colombo Plan pilot phase in Hong Kong

We are now almost half way through the pilot phase of the New Colombo Plan, which was launched by Minister Bishop in December last year.

In February, the Australian Government awarded the first round of mobility grants under the pilot phase, which will see over 300 Australian students undertake study and work experiences in the pilot destinations of Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.

Last Friday (16 May), Minister Bishop announced a second round of mobility funding offers that will support up to 1,000 additional student experiences in the pilot destinations.

And next month, around 40 of our best and brightest students will receive scholarships to study in the pilot destinations.

The New Colombo Plan will then be rolled out more broadly across the Indo-Pacific region from 2015.

Hong Kong has been a very popular destination in the New Colombo Plan pilot phase.

In addition to the 15 students from the University of Wollongong who are here tonight, around 10 students from Macquarie University in Sydney will participate in an international summer school program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in July, undertaking courses in business, the humanities, social sciences and languages.

I expect that these numbers will increase significantly later this year as part of the second round of mobility funding and the award of Hong Kong New Colombo Plan scholarships.

Ladies and gentlemen, the implementation of the New Colombo Plan pilot phase in Hong Kong is well under way. But this has not occurred solely through the work of the Australian Government or Australian universities and businesses. Indeed, the success of the New Colombo Plan in Hong Kong depends on close partnerships between governments, universities and businesses in Australia and Hong Kong.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Hong Kong Government for its participation in the New Colombo Plan pilot phase and to especially recognise the support of the Education and Immigration Bureau in helping us to implement the program in Hong Kong.

I would also like to thank Hong Kong tertiary institutions for warmly embracing Australian students under the New Colombo Plan pilot phase, as well as Hong Kong businesses and the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong for continuing to show an active interest in the New Colombo Plan.

Ladies and gentlemen, a hallmark of the New Colombo Plan is the opportunity for Australian students to undertake internship and mentorship experiences in our region.

These experiences will enable young Australians to learn about customs and business practices in our region, to share Australian perspectives in areas of common interest, to develop language abilities through communication and exchange and to build friendships and partnerships for the future.

I encourage local business organisations to talk to staff at the Australian Consulate here in Hong Kong or directly to the New Colombo Plan Secretariat in Canberra to discuss opportunities to provide internships and mentorships for Australian students as part of the New Colombo Plan.

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Kate Duff from the New Colombo Plan Secretariat is here with me tonight and would be very happy to talk to you about those opportunities throughout the evening.

My final point is a very important one and it is directed towards the University of Wollongong students here tonight: make sure you get involved in the New Colombo Plan alumni network.

In particular, I hope you get the opportunity to speak with some of the Hong Kong alumni who are here with us this evening. Tapping into these kinds of alumni networks brings a wide range of benefits, from job opportunities to life-long friendships.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude my remarks by wishing our University of Wollongong students here tonight all the very best for their study programs in Hong Kong.

You are the real pioneers in a program that the Australian Government hopes will re-shape the way our students approach their university studies, opening the door to new opportunities and experiences beyond our shores that will enhance their knowledge and cultural understanding of our region and further their career prospects.

And of course, through stronger people-to-people, university, business and ultimately country-to-country linkages, we hope that the New Colombo Plan will lead to even closer relations between Australia and Hong Kong that will endure well into the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.

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